AlterNet Claims: ‘Christian’ Manifesto Comparing Liberals to Nazis Gathers Signatures of Religious Right Leaders and Catholic Bishops

The following post contains a commentary from Peter Montgomery concerning the Manhattan Declaration. Peter Montgomery is a Senior Fellow at the People for the American Way Foundation.

I have signed the document because I am in agreement that we, Christians at least, must unite in order to protect the sanctity of life, the Sacrament of Marriage and our religious liberty in the face of ever-increasing apathy and negativity to these three foundation stones of the United States and civilization as a whole.

As usual, I have made some in-line comments and emphasis. Any feedback is appreciated.

Right-wing Christian leaders are making a concerted push to gain thousands of new signatures for their hate-filled Manhattan Declaration.

February 10, 2010

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Religious right leaders are making a concerted push to gain thousands of new signatures for their “Manhattan Declaration,” a manifesto [Seems like Mr. Montgomery wishes to use word play to associate the declaration to the Communist Manifesto.] released late last year by about 150 conservative Christian leaders. The document, signed by such religious-right heavy-hitters as Focus on the Family eminence James Dobson and Prison Fellowship Ministries leader Chuck Colson, compares pro-choice advocates to eugenicists (and implicitly to Nazis) and equates same-sex marriage with polygamy and a gateway to legalized incest. [A couple of notes here. The U.S.’s largest abortion mill, Planned Parenthood, was started by a historically documents eugenicists advocate. As far as linking abortion to Nazis. Well, this is a harsh but logical step. Keeping in mind that many do know the history of abortion in this country as well as they should, the sanctions murder of millions of babies is something as despicable as the extermination of millions of Jews. The difference with abortion is that it affects more that one ethnic group. It affects an entire race – the human race.] Its authors promise to defy any law that does not comport with their religious beliefs. [Here is another interesting statement by the Mr. Montgomery. It would appear that he does not understand the concept of unjust laws and everyone’s personal duty to civilly oppose and fight against laws we believe to be unjust. I offer up the example of medical marijuana laws. Many believe, and I am certain Mr. Montgomery would agree, that current drug laws are ineffective at best and when taken in conjunction with mandatory sentencing laws can be considered down right draconian. There is no difference with the statements in the Manhattan Declaration. As Christians we can look towards Christ Himself and the martyrs an saints who glorify Him as examples of civilly fighting against unjust laws. We “render unto Cesar what is Cesar’s and render unto God what is God’s.” The right to life is not something that belongs to Cesar.] Joining the religious right’s Protestant leaders as signatories to the declaration are four Roman Catholic bishops, including those presiding over the powerful archdioceses of New York and Washington, DC.

Described by New York Times religion reporter Laurie Goodstein as “an effort to rejuvenate the political alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelicals that dominated the religious debate during the administration of President George W. Bush,” declaration authors initially set a target for a million signatures by December 1. Although they fell well short of that goal, they claimed at press time to have gathered more than 419,000 signatures and have redoubled their efforts to add more names. [Let’s try to help our four bishops and the rest of the signatories to reach this gaol.]

The American Family Association made the Manhattan Declaration the centerpiece of a January fundraising letter, urging members to sign the document, warning of the grave threat from “the anti-family/anti-religious radicals who control the White House and Congress.” Focus on the Family posted a note on its “Action Center” on January 14. And several U.S. Catholic bishops — Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville — are urging their fellow bishops to preach about the declaration, get signatures from the faithful and use the document as an organizing vehicle.

If You’re Not With Us, You’re a Lot Like a Nazi

Supporters of legal access to abortion and supporters of physician-assisted suicide are described in the 4,700-word manifesto as “those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled.” [Is this in accurate statement? This line reference above is found in the section of the document concerning Religious Liberty where it goes on to say, “It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated around these practices be recognized and blessed by law—such persons claiming these “rights” are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”] The declaration goes on to link reproductive rights and death-with-dignity advocates with the early-20th-century eugenicists whose notions fueled the murderous Nazi ideology of genetic purity. From the declaration:

Eugenic notions such as the doctrine of lebensunwertes Leben (“life unworthy of life”) were first advanced in the 1920s by intellectuals in the elite salons of America and Europe. Long buried in ignominy after the horrors of the mid-20th century, they have returned from the grave. The only difference is that now the doctrines of the eugenicists are dressed up in the language of “liberty,” “autonomy,” and “choice.”

In other words, the declaration suggests the only difference between Nazi master-race theorists and today’s pro-choice and death-with-dignity advocates is rhetorical. [I am in agreement here. There is only a rhetorical difference. When I was in support of abortion and euthanasia I failed to realize that it only took one step to go from the rights of an individual person (lucid adult) to make the choice to take their own life or that of their own child to the idea that the state could make the choice for us. Margret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was one who objected to the Nazi atrocities on the one hand but supported and advocated for “negative” eugenics on the other. From Wikipedia:

Sanger was a proponent of negative eugenics, a social philosophy which claims that human hereditary traits can be improved through social intervention. Methods of social intervention (targeted at those seen as “genetically unfit”) advocated by some negative eugenists have included selective breeding, sterilization and even euthanasia. Sanger’s eugenic policies ran to an exclusionary immigration policy, free access to birth control methods and full family planning autonomy for the able-minded, and segregation or sterilization for the profoundly retarded. She expressly denounced euthanasia as a eugenics tool.

In A Plan for Peace (1932), for example, Sanger proposed a congressional department to:

Keep the doors of immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race, such as feebleminded, idiots, morons, insane, syphilitic, epileptic, criminal, professional prostitutes, and others in this class barred by the immigration laws of 1924.[21]

And, following:

Apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.[21]

Sanger saw birth control as a means to prevent “dysgenic” children from being born into a disadvantaged life, and dismissed “positive eugenics” (which promoted greater fertility for the “fitter” upper classes) as impractical. Though many leaders in the negative eugenics movement were calling for active euthanasia of the “unfit,” Sanger spoke out against such methods. She believed that women with the power and knowledge of birth control were in the best position to produce “fit” children. She rejected any type of eugenics that would take control out of the hands of those actually giving birth.

Taking sharp issue in plain words with certain other[22] eugenicists, however, Margaret Sanger completely rejected the idea of gassing the unfit. ‘Nor do we believe,’ wrote Sanger in Pivot of Civilization, ‘that the community could or should send to the lethal chamber the defective progeny resulting from irresponsible and unintelligent breeding.’[23]

Sanger’s views thus broke sharply from those proposing Nazi eugenics—an aggressive, and lethal, program. She wrote in a 1933 letter:

“All the news from Germany is sad & horrible, and to me more dangerous than any other war going on any where because it has so many good people who applaud the atrocities & claim its right. The sudden antagonism in Germany against the Jews & the vitriolic hatred of them is spreading underground here & is far more dangerous than the aggressive policy of the Japanese in Manchuria..”[24]

Sanger believed the responsibility for birth control should remain in the hands of able-minded individual parents rather than the state, and that self-determining motherhood was the only unshakable foundation for racial betterment; she wrote:

“The campaign for birth control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical with the final aims of eugenics…. We are convinced that racial regeneration, like individual regeneration, must come ‘from within.’ That is, it must be autonomous, self-directive, and not imposed from without.”[25]

We maintain that a woman possessing an adequate knowledge of her reproductive functions is the best judge of the time and conditions under which her child should be brought into the world. We further maintain that it is her right, regardless of all other considerations, to determine whether she shall bear children or not, and how many children she shall bear if she chooses to become a mother… Only upon a free, self-determining motherhood can rest any unshakable structure of racial betterment.[26]

She advocated coercion only to prevent the “undeniably feeble-minded” from procreating;

“The undeniably feeble-minded should, indeed, not only be discouraged but prevented from propagating their kind.”[27]

Her first pamphlet read:

It is a vicious cycle; ignorance breeds poverty and poverty breeds ignorance. There is only one cure for both, and that is to stop breeding these things. Stop bringing to birth children whose inheritance cannot be one of health or intelligence. Stop bringing into the world children whose parents cannot provide for them. Herein lies the key of civilization. For upon the foundation of an enlightened and voluntary motherhood shall a future civilization emerge.[28]

As this section from the Wikipedia article on Margret Sanger demonstrates, the line concerning eugenics is drawn in the implementation and not the ideal which had always been to eliminate the weak and “undesirable.” Check out the documentary Maafa 21 to see how this mindset has adversely affected the African-American community.]

Similar respect is accorded to same-sex couples and those who support them. The declaration never mentions same-sex relationships without pairing them with polyamorous relationships or incest, a fact reflected in the headline of an Associated Press story (as it appears on Edge, an LGBT Web site) about the declaration: “Evangelicals, Catholics: Gay Marriage Paves the Way to Incest.” That, along with the well-documented anti-gay histories of many signers, makes it hard to take seriously the document’s assertion that it is “love (not ‘animus’) and prudent concern for the common good (not ‘prejudice’)” that is motivating the signers’ pledge to resist and defy laws that recognize civil marriage equality. [I think many of the signers, at least the bishops anyway, would state that they are not anti-gay when referring to the person. They are anti-gay when referring to the homosexual act. Without getting into something more long-winded that what I added above, we must consider that marriage in and of itself is a uniting of two persons into one individual and was instituted by God early in human history. That is why the Church is able to recognize the possibility of a valid marriage under “natural” law but may question the sacramental nature due because the parties may not be baptized Christians. Nature is concerned with the propagation of the species and homosexual activity in no way serves this. Removing the pro-creative aspect of marriage results in an bond that is void of its fundamental character. This is what the document is referring to when it states, “marriage is made possible by the sexual complementarity of man and woman, and that the comprehensive, multi-level sharing of life that marriage is includes bodily unity of the sort that unites husband and wife biologically as a reproductive unit.”]

For the declaration’s authors, the concept of civil union seems worthy of contempt. “No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage,” [This is because the marriage bond is reflective of the bond Jesus has with His Bride, the Church, in addition to being representative of the perfect unity which is the Holy Trinity (Gen 2:24, Mal 2:15, Matt 19:4-6, 1 Cor 7:4).] they write — echoing sentiments found on the site of the Conference of Catholic Bishops explaining the church’s opposition to any legal recognition of same-sex relationships: “We strongly oppose any legislative and judicial attempts, both at state and federal levels, to grant same-sex unions the equivalent status and rights of marriage — by naming them marriage, civil unions, or by other means.”

According to the declaration, marriage is, in the final analysis, about creating a “reproductive unit.” Yes, marriage may be about an emotional and spiritual commitment, but only one that is “completed and actualized” by sexual intercourse that fulfills “the behavioral conditions of procreation.” [This is the fundamental part. The selfless openness to life – the perfect gift from God.]

America on the Brink of Anti-Christian Tyranny and Totalitarianism

The Manhattan Declaration, while presented as a religious tract, is more a political offensive, and its primary target appears to be President Barack Obama. Princeton University law professor Robert George, who co-authored the document with Chuck Colson, explained on Dobson’s radio show that one impetus for the declaration was the election of Barack Obama and Democratic majorities in Congress, who, he claims, are out to destroy traditional marriage and basic Christian values. The manifesto warns that restrictions on the right of religious institutions to discriminate in hiring threatens to undermine civil society and lead to “soft despotism.” [The Constitution guarantees the Freedom of Religion and as such, a religious institution should be free to ensure that it is able to operate free of state intervention. This is a difficult task because all governments exist because God allows them to. As such we should be obedient to our political leaders but only until they go against God’s own authority. That does not mean that we take up arms but instead resist with charity and respect for their authority – from within the law. If that is not possible then we, as I stated above, should be ready to stand for the Faith as others have done before us.]

Although the document’s rhetoric sounds some old and familiar right-wing themes, it’s dressed up for the Obama era to include the now-standard right-wing warnings that the administration and its congressional allies are leading the United States into an era of Nazi-like tyranny. The document’s authors and signers preen as willing martyrs for the cause of religious liberty, highlighting dramatic, fictional claims of anti-Christian persecution run amok in America. [Mr. Montgomery fails to realize that persecution does not have to be violent. To the contrary, it is most effective when it is not violent, when it uses the power of law and “reasonable” common ground to slowly attempt to whither the persecuted foundation.] “We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers,” the authors write, “that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.” [Yup.]

David Dockery, president of the Southern Baptist-affiliated Union University, compared the Manhattan Declaration to the 1934 Barmen Declaration of the confessing churches in Nazi Germany resisting the Nazi-sympathizing state church. In a Web video promoting the document, Colson urged viewers to read Hanna Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, saying, “It is a very chilling book. It is prophetic, however, in its application to today.”

In discussing the declaration with George and Colson on his radio show, James Dobson stated that with the passage of hate crimes legislation, “it could get very costly to follow this Christ,” meaning that pastors and Christians are about to come under direct attack from the government, to which Robert George responded that Christian “martyrs have [always] been called on to pay the ultimate price rather than to deny the Lord or to do what is evil in his sight.”

The document repeats bogus claims about the new federal hate crimes law, neglecting to note the law’s explicit affirmation of First Amendment protections for free speech and religious liberty:

In Canada and some European nations, Christian clergy have been prosecuted for preaching Biblical norms against the practice of homosexuality. New hate-crime laws in America raise the specter of the same practice here. [The key phrase here is “raise the specter.” In other words, there is cause for concern because countries who supposedly adhere to similar tenants of religious freedom, etc. have enacted laws under the guise of defusing hate but have instead sanctioned such sentiments against religious institutions – some Christian. I am sure that Mr. Montgomery was one of voices opposed to the limiting of female Islamic expressionvia the wearing for head scarves.]

The Hype

Despite the hyperventilated claims by the declaration’s authors to be staking out new historical ground, the message essentially rehashes the anti-gay and anti-abortion messages religious right leaders have been spouting for decades.

This basic message, while gussied up in pages of prose from George and Colson, echoes speeches we’ve heard again and again by James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and many of the other familiar religious right leaders who are among the original signers.

Grandiose claims have been made about the Declaration’s importance, based on the fact that it includes Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox leaders, and trumpeting its threats of widespread civil disobedience in response to civil marriage equality, legal abortion and end-of-life issues:

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

Promoters of the Manhattan Declaration have made a big deal out of the supposedly historical significance of getting Roman Catholics, evangelicals and Orthodox Christians together on the same document and the same press conference podium. But this isn’t 1950, and it’s not really all that amazing for conservative Christians to join forces across denominational lines in a political battle. [It is when you consider that most of the denominations joining forces previously were Protestants. Now we see a joint effort among Catholics, schismatics and Protestants. There may be more at work here than just human efforts.]

Anti-choice Catholics and evangelicals have long worked side by side in opposition to legal abortion, as they are currently doing to try to use health-care reform efforts to further restrict women’s access to reproductive health services. In recent months, Catholic bishops have devoted massive financial resources and political muscle to resisting domestic partnerships and marriage equality, and shown themselves ever more willing to stand with extreme anti-gay voices of the evangelical right. In December, Catholic leaders shocked even many Washington-area Catholics by threatening to abandon Catholic Charities’ extensive social service partnerships with the DC government if the marriage equality bill moving forward in the DC Council becomes law. [It was the right move. I would have been shocked otherwise.]

Nevertheless, the document’s promoters insist it is history in the making. Manhattan Declaration co-author Chuck Colson said it was the most important document he has ever signed. Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said nothing of this significance has happened in his lifetime, and gushed on his television show that Colson, one of the authors of the declaration, would be “one of the great influences on history.”

Document signers have been compared with, and compared themselves with, every Christian hero from the early martyrs to Martin Luther King. Huckabee suggested the document’s historical importance equaled that of Martin Luther sparking the Protestant Reformation by nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. James Dobson called it “a defining moment in America for the Christian church.” (Of course, Dobson sees every election cycle as a defining moment.)

Appearing on Fox Newschannel’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” Ann Coulter told Bill O’Reilly it is a “fantastic statement” that might “wake up” the church.

Anti-abortion activist and WorldNetDaily columnist Jill Stanek wrote, “In my mind, signing the Manhattan Declaration is the closest I’ll come to understanding the thoughts and feelings of those signing the Declaration of Independence. Those men were willing to pay the ultimate price to stand against tyranny.” [Amen.]

Given that in many parts of the world, Christians and people of other faiths are actively persecuted and killed for their religious beliefs, it’s nothing short of shameful that these privileged and powerful public figures are pretending they run the same risk for their anti-gay and anti-abortion advocacy in America. After all, it isn’t anti-choice activists in America who have been paying the “ultimate price,” but doctors and other workers at clinics providing women in America with medical care who have been killed by advocates for “life.” [I guess Mr. Montgomery conveniently forgot the death of Jim Pouillon.]

The first 168 signers included an array of figures from the religious right legal and political movement, including James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, William Donohue, Jim Daly, Jonathan Falwell, Richard Land, Mark Tooley and Alan Sears; Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown from the National Organization for Marriage; anti-gay clergy like Rev. Ken Hutcherson, Rev. Jim Garlow and Bishop Harry Jackson; and Frank Schubert, the campaign strategist who devised the fearmongering anti-marriage campaigns in California and Maine. Also included were a number Roman Catholic Bishops, including Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, some elders of Orthodox churches, and Peter Akinola, primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria and a leading anti-gay voice in the Anglican church. Filling out the initial list are conservative professors, theologians and editors and publishers of conservative Christian publications.

Asking rhetorically if the attention-seeking Declaration was a sign of desperation or a show of power by the religious right, journalist and author Sarah Posner calls it “proof that the culture wars are not only not over; there hasn’t even been a truce.”

Politics or Religion?

Chuck Colson, one of the document’s authors, rejected the notion that the declaration is a political manifesto of the religious right, saying “nothing could be further from the truth.”

“This document is a clarion call to reach out to the poor and suffering,” he said. Maybe he’s referring to an earlier draft. In fact, the Manhattan Declaration is so far from the “clarion call” Colson describes that Jonathan Merritt, a younger evangelical, wrote in the Newsweek/Washington Post “On Faith” blog that “this declaration has relegated” other issues of moral concern — such as poverty and degradation of the environment — “to little more than a footnote.”

Progressives expressed their own concern. “This declaration simply perpetuates the fallacy that equality and religious liberty are incompatible and every step toward fairness for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is another burden on religious people,” writes Harry Knox, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion & Faith Program. “In reality, non-discrimination laws are working all over this country, where religious freedom is existing side-by-side with equal opportunity.”

The Religious Institution for Sexual Morality and Healing issued a statement describing the declaration as “a political call against women’s moral agency and the rights of lesbian and gay persons dressed up in religious language.”

The declaration “profoundly misrepresents the moral questions Christians encounter in America today,” said Reverend Timothy McDonald, founder of the African American Ministers Leadership Council and a board member of People For the American Way Foundation. [Hmmm. Seems these are the fundamental moral questions Christians encounter today.] “Perhaps even more importantly, I am deeply disappointed that the signers of this document would use scare tactics and mistruths to generate a wholly synthetic threat to religious liberty.”

A Los Angeles Times editorial called the declaration’s invocation of King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail “specious,” saying the signers, “even as they insist on their right to shape the nation’s laws, are reserving the right to violate them in situations far removed from King’s witness.” The editorial also states:

Strong words, but also irresponsible and dangerous ones. The strange land described in this statement is one in which a sinister secularist government is determined to force Christians to betray their principles about abortion or the belief that “holy matrimony” is “an institution ordained by God.” The idea that same-sex civil marriage will undermine religious marriage is a canard Californians will remember from the campaign for Proposition 8, as is the declaration’s complaint that Christian leaders are being prevented from expressing their “religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”

In the end, the Manhattan Declaration reflects rather than revolutionizes the trend toward a weakening of denominational lines and a strengthening of theological and ideological ties across denominational lines. In many ways, right-wing evangelicals and Catholics have increasingly had more in common with each other, particularly regarding public policy and religion in politics, than liberal and conservatives within any particular denomination.

But it also reflects a potentially more troubling hardening of right-wing resistance to legal abortion and to cultural shifts that signal a nation increasingly supportive of equality for LGBT people. In a diverse and increasingly pluralistic nation, these conservative Christian leaders are inflaming false fears of religious persecution in order to justify their own intransigence and unwillingness to abide by legal, political and cultural changes they don’t like. [I don’t know about other Christians but as Catholics, we never stand with the cultural norm. We always seem to be just outside of it in someway. But I guess Christ knew that when He said, “Remember my word that I said to you: The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also (John 15:20).”]

If, as these and other conservative Christians have declared, their positions on abortion and end-of-life issues and marriage are “inviolable and non-negotiable,” where does that lead? Clearly, it may lead to the Archdiocese of Washington decreeing that its supposed need not to provide health care benefits to the partner of a gay employee is more important than its multi-million-dollar partnerships with the District of Columbia government to provide services to the homeless and hungry. [The Archdiocese is more concerned with following Her Founder, Christ, that government dollars. The Church does not need to provide health care to anyone, it does, however, need to ensure that She operates as an institution of God. That is why She will continue to house the homeless and feed the hungry without government funding. Hey, we’ve been doing it longer than the government itself!]

And it could lead to worse. The editors of the Los Angeles Times called the Manhattan Declaration’s “apocalyptic argument for lawbreaking” both disingenuous and dangerous, and asked, “Did the Roman Catholic bishops who signed the manifesto consider how their endorsement of lawbreaking in a higher cause might embolden the antiabortion terrorists they claim to condemn?” [I find it so ironic that the “liberals” I once looked up to cry foul when others wish to use the same tactics they employ. What makes you better?]

The signers, concludes the editorial, “need to be reminded that this is a nation of laws, not of men — even holy men.” [Yes, but our nation’s laws are based on the Law given to us by the Most High.]

Amen. [Indeed.]

Peter Montgomery is a senior fellow at People For the American Way Foundation.

via alternet.orgWell, this was my 2 cents worth. Whew!

Anyway, I encourage everyone to check out the Manhattan Declaration and sign it if you are in agreement. Otherwise, read it so that you can better understand our position.

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